In October 2002, MTV aired the special "Diary of Bono & Chris Tucker: Aiding Africa," which detailed a trip Bono, actor Chris Tucker and then-U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill took to Africa that spring. The episode showed the positive impacts aid and other investments could have on communities while also highlighting areas still in need of help.
One such positive investment highlighted in the episode was the construction of a well in a Ugandan village. Prior to the well's construction, which cost around $1,000, villagers had to walk 10-12 miles to get clean water. U2 fans gathered online to discuss the episode and talk about ways they could help, including funding the construction of additional wells.
From those early discussions, the African Well Fund was born.
In spring 2003, AWF held its first fundraiser, aiming to raise enough to fund the construction of one well in honor of Bono's birthday. More than $10,000 was raised in the first Build a Well for Bono's Birthday, which was used to fund a clean water and sanitation project in Uganda implemented by Africare. In its first year of fundraising, AWF raised more than $26,000.
AWF has since found support far beyond the U2 fan community with schools, church groups, community organizations and individuals around the world working to raise money for AWF projects. Thanks to their hard work, AWF has raised more than $1 million to fund more than 300 projects in 14 African nations that are benefiting over 335,000 people.
"It's hard to believe that such a small idea turned into something that can have a wonderful impact on the lives of so many people," said Laura Page, founding board member and current board advisor. "It is just proof that it doesn't take a ton of money and a big corporate presence to have an impact, just an idea and the willingness to work. It's been a great pleasure to be involved with AWF and all of our supporters for so many years."